Duke Blue: Moments (preview)

Page 1

The forest came first.


efore there was West Campus, before there was Duke stone, before there was Duke, there was the forest. Along with its distinctive blue, Duke radiates a deep forest green. The green of the oaks on West Campus, the pines on East, the lawns that stretch everywhere you look. Climb to the top of the Chapel tower and turn your head in almost any direction: What you see is green. By design and by accident, Duke is not so much a university with a forest and a garden as a university in a forest and a garden. Start with the forest. When word leaked in the 1920s that J.B. Duke wanted to buy the land around Trinity for the expanded college that would become Duke University, land prices skyrocketed. For a moment, an annoyed Duke even threatened to relocate the university to Charlotte. Fortunately, at that time Trinity President William Preston Few happened to take a walk with his sons in the woods off to the west of campus. In these wooded fields and abandoned acres that had lain fallow since being farmed out decades before, Few envisioned Duke’s future home. Duke began buying land there in 1924 and by 1929 had acquired some 5,000 acres.



WITHIN A MONTH of the 2014 death of Jovian, a resident of the Duke Lemur Center, a video put up in his honor had received almost 30,000 YouTube hits. Which seems like a lot, but Jovian, a Coquerel’s sifaka, had been the host and star of the PBS show Zoboomafoo. Which just shows that you never know where research will end up. Started in 1966 as the Duke Primate Center on 80 acres of Duke Forest land, the Lemur Center assembled more endangered primates than any other center in the world, whether you’re counting species or individual animals. Scientists and students there carry out noninvasive research on everything from behavior to genomics and conservation, and the center connects with Duke outreach programs in Madagascar. Which is all very interesting, but if all you want to know is whether you can tour the center, the answer is yes: There are new visitor facilities where you are welcome to stand and stare into those wide, wild, crazy eyes.



In warmer weather, Japanese dancers Eiko + Koma performed their hypnotic piece “The River� in the pool in the Asiatic Arboretum of the gardens in 1996 and 2011. The gardens provide a special setting for artists to perform, potters to display, and landscape architects to dream, environmental studies students to survey and draw, horticultural students to study living specimens, and much more.





By the time they graduate, almost half of all Duke students have spent a term abroad. They return to find a campus that is also increasingly international, with 13 percent of its students now coming from other countries. Although not likely to supplant basketball anytime soon, a cricket match on a Central Campus green no longer generates surprise. Nor does a group of students practicing Brazilian martial arts. International events are common, whether weekly Global Cafes at the International House or larger festivals such as Holi, where Indian students and others join in flinging colored powder at each other. Student groups mash up ballet and hip-hop with dances from Ireland, China, or Bollywood. Campus eateries feature samosas and salsa along with burgers. Duke now operates a medical school in Singapore in cooperation with the National University of Singapore, and a Global Health Institute in Tanzania, as well as research and study programs in dozens of countries. Does the sun ever set on Duke? Temporarily, perhaps, if Carolina wins in basketball, but otherwise, not really.







By tradition, graduating students climb to the top of the Chapel tower. Selfies are a new addition.



Where does Duke stop and everything else start?


here does one department end and another department, or a student group, or the city of Durham, or, for that matter, the world, begin? Don’t ask. The question may no longer even make sense at Duke. Across its curriculum, research, and interdisciplinary programs, the university encourages professors and students alike to move beyond conventional boundaries. Consider Nimmi Ramanujam, a professor of biomedical engineering. As the director of Duke’s Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies, she challenges future engineers and others to embrace a range of skills and perspectives in tackling real-world problems. She combined almost everything she’d ever done in the world, at Duke and elsewhere, to develop a program to help women in rural Kenya, part of a larger Duke effort called WISER. She listened to women there and learned that what they really wanted was skills and resources—and light, to enable them to continue their work after dark. One thing led to another, and Ramanujam now takes female Duke engineering students on summer trips there to teach Kenyan women how to build flashlights. She also has been working with other Duke students to develop a small device that women



in Haiti and other developing countries might use to take pictures of their cervixes and send the results wirelessly to be checked for cancer, thereby reducing their need to travel to potentially distant clinics. Duke. Women. Teaching. Engineering. Health. International work. Skills building. If you’re looking for boundaries in that list, good luck.

Today’s Duke is much more than classrooms,

sunlit quads, and library study spaces where you get The Glare if your cell phone starts beeping. It lives in panel discussions, in theaters filled by student performers and world-renowned soloists, in coffee houses and galleries on and off campus. A single day’s listing from a single bulletin board tells the story. Various Duke coffee houses on that day featured the following bands: Frankie & Smog; the Borches; Empty Disco; the Sleeping Cranes; Quilla; and England in 1819. Signs also promoted a poetry reading and panel discussion called “Apartness: Poetry, Race and the Ethics of Representation,” with professors from Duke and Carolina and poets from all over. You could see “Dying in America,” a discussion on narratives,

Fall leaves add color to the Old Chemistry Building.



At its Lunar New Year event, the Duke Asian Students Association showcases the talents of students through elements of Asian culture. The annual cultural production includes both traditional and modern acts, featuring dance and vocal performances by a broad range of campus groups.

and Duke scholars and students investigate the world. Duke’s horizons now reach as high as rockets designed by the students at the Pratt School of Engineering, and as wide as the extra-spatial dimensions posited by Duke professors of physics and mathematics. Schools, departments, and majors still define conventional disciplines, but boundaries at Duke are something to cross on the way to constantly evolving intersections. For limits, look someplace else.



New York dancer and choreographer Gwen Welliver, faculty member of the American Dance Festival, performs in the Nasher Museum of Art. She and her composition lab students performed informal showings of work inspired by Olafur Eliasson’s large-scale interactive installation “The uncertain museum.” Continuing Eliasson’s exploration of the boundaries between spectator and object, the dancers interacted with patterns of projected light and shadow. Between dances, viewers themselves stepped inside the installation.



“Think of something clever but clean, devastating but decent, mean but wholesome, witty and forceful but G-rated for television, and try it at the next game.”TERRY SANFORD



In 1984, after Duke’s student section was particularly profane in its taunting of a University of Maryland squad (and taken to task by a story in The Washington Post), President Terry Sanford wrote what he titled “An Avuncular Letter” to the students. He signed it “Uncle Terry,” urging the students to replace profanity with cleverness. They did—greeting each member of the opposition introduced at the next game with a cheery but scornful “Hi!” They augmented the standard “If you can’t go to college, go to State” cards they used for games against N.C. State with the addendum, “If you can’t go to State, write for The Washington Post.” The Cameron Crazies were born.